FitXR is planning to shake the VR fitness industry up as they announce the launch of their new $9.99 premium monthly membership subscription. This marks a big departure from the team’s current model that comprises a one-time purchased base game with optional additional DLC purchases if the user desires.
For a quick overview of the new format and exciting content that will be coming to FitXR check out my FitXR Announcement overview. In this article I want to go deeper, explaining exactly what this means for the FitXR community, current owners of the base game, future customers, and not forgetting owners of BoxVR on Playstation and PC.
This is of course a big change, and the introduction of subscription services usually doesn’t go down well with gamers so understandably many of you will have concerns.
The FitXR team is thankfully aware of this and a couple of weeks ago invited me to join them on a Zoom call to discuss the model, their plans for the future, and offer reassurances for existing FitXR and BoxVR owners.
As someone who has been using FitXR, and BoxVR before that for almost four years now I’m certain I shared many of the same concerns as the rest of you reading this, therefore my questions to FitXR CEO Sam Cole are hopefully precisely what you also currently want to be answered.
I came away from the interview, and a multiplayer demo in which I played a 15 minute Box session with Sam, (and head trainer Ianthe amongst others), with some pretty positive expectations, and am now really excited about the launch. But when I first received the invite to talk with them about their ‘exciting new membership model’, I admit I was skeptical. My immediate thoughts were directed not at what exciting new content they might have in store, but whether or not I and other FitXR customers were going to lose access to the game we’ve paid for, or must pay monthly to retain it, and how did I draw the short straw to be the messenger…
I’ve divided the article into three parts. First, we’ll look at the FitXR team’s rationale behind the change, and why they think this is a positive move for all concerned.
Next up is a Q & A with Sam where I’ve tried to anticipate most of the likely concerns and questions that users might have.
Finally, we’ll have a discussion about the new features, game modes, and environments coming to FitXR in the coming weeks, which may help you determine if the monthly subscription is worthwhile.
Why A Subscription Model?
Talking with FitXR co-founder Sam Cole, it’s clear that the FitXR team is both passionate about VR fitness and ambitious in their future goals. The incredible success of the Oculus Quest 2 and a global pandemic that has seen physical gyms closed and people forced to stay at home have combined to contribute a sizable growth in the VR fitness industry. While not yet mainstream, more and more people are getting on board with VR’s potential for improving health, fitness, weight loss, and body composition and FitXR has been at the forefront of this growing trend.
The FitXR devs want to establish themselves as a premier fitness company in virtual reality, offering multiple game modes, new daily workouts personally choreographed by their in-house real-world qualified instructors, as well as bring in commercially licensed soundtracks thanks to a partnership with Warner Music. Rather than seeing themselves as video game developers, their ambition is to create a true VR fitness brand. While virtual reality is still relatively nascent technology its growth in 2020-2021 suggests the mainstream public is slowly catching on to this wondrous invention and the potential for virtual reality to be seen as a platform for real fitness training, rather than just active games is starting to become reality. FitXR, understandably, wants to be at the forefront of this growth.
Just as companies such as Peloton and Zwift have married high tech computer and video-based technologies to traditional cycle training, building recognizable and desirable brand reputations in the process, it’s clear that the race for companies to establish the same in VR is now very much on. With virtual reality still in its early days, there’s a real opportunity for smaller companies to get established before the major fitness brands get involved, it’s only natural that FitXR wants a piece of that.
It’s therefore clearly in FitXR’s best interest to switch to a subscription membership model. It allows them to create a much more ambitious, feature-rich service, with daily workouts, catering directly to a target audience of avid fitness enthusiasts. Features such as commercial music licensing, and future integration with other established fitness technologies and brands will be necessary to compete with future industry rivals. The alternative, to remain a one-time purchased video game would limit growth and expansion, and relegate them to the active game category, rather than being the serious virtual reality gym alternative that they could be.
But What About The Customer?
Whilst it’s pretty clear to see the benefits to FitXR of adopting this model, as consumers we justifiably tend to care more about the value of what we are getting. For most people, the Oculus Quest is a VR gaming platform, not directly a fitness tool, and so marketing FitXR specifically as a fitness subscription service is definitely targeting a different audience than might have currently bought the game. The concern here is will FitXR’s gain be at the expense of its existing customer base? This was my initial reaction to hearing the news, I’ve already purchased FitXR, now I have to pay for it again every month?
I quizzed Sam on this, asking him to address all the concerns that I had, as well as other specific questions I could imagine some of our readers might want to know. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by his responses, which I’ve recorded below;
Q & A with Sam Cole, FitXR CEO and Co-Founder
If I don’t want to pay a subscription, will I lose access to FitXR?
Sam Membership is totally optional. If you decide not to continue with a membership, you won’t lose access to anything you have already purchased.
As a thank you for being a dedicated member of the FitXR community, you will receive a 90-day free trial. This means you’ll have access to all of your original workouts alongside everything that FitXR membership has to offer including seven new classes added each week and regular product improvements. We’re also introducing a new HIIT studio featuring High-Intensity Interval Training classes very soon.
After this trial period, if you decide not to proceed with membership, your account will be reverted back to how it was before the upgrade. This means you’ll still have access to all of the content you had previously, alongside any DLC packs you’ve purchased – and you will still be able to play multiplayer sessions.
So I definitely keep the base game plus any DLC’s I’ve bought forever?
Sam ‘Yes!. The FitXR base game and any purchased DLC packs will remain yours forever regardless of if you join and later cancel your membership’.
Will the base game remain on sale for new customers?
Sam ‘For new members, FitXR will be free to download from the Oculus store. Once a member has downloaded FitXR and created their profile, they will be given a free 7-day membership trial, during which time they’ll have full access to all content. Following the free 7-day trial, new members can subscribe for the monthly membership for continued full content access. If they choose not to subscribe, new members will still have access to the free basic version of the app, which includes three tutorial classes for each fitness studio. This currently means access to three boxing and three dancing classes, but will expand to also include three HIIT classes later in May’.
What about those of us who own BoxVR on PC or Playstation, will FitXR come to these platforms?
Sam ‘Yes, for the FitXR Steam, Rift, and PSVR communities, we’re working to launch the membership model and related upgraded content in the near future’.
If I own BoxVR on Playstation or PC and don’t want to pay a subscription what happens when BoxVR becomes FitXR?
Sam ‘We’re currently working on bringing FitXR and membership to our communities on Steam, Rift, and PSVR later this year. We’ll be able to share further details on how the move to membership will work on these platforms closer to that time’.
We saw with Supernatural VR that commercial music licensing laws resulted in that service being restricted to North America, could this happen to FitXR?
Sam ‘We don’t anticipate any problems with regional licensing conflicts’.
I don’t want to pay a monthly subscription, but I do really want multiplayer…
Sam ‘If you don’t choose to go ahead with membership, you’ll still have access to our new multiplayer feature, as a thank you for being a dedicated member of the FitXR community’.
My partner and other family members also play FitXR, will we all need a subscription or will you support family accounts?
Sam ‘You can have up to 5 profiles on a FitXR account. If the primary account holder signs up for a FItXR membership, then this will be free for all other created profiles. This means family members and housemates will receive access to all of the benefits of FitXR membership’.
Hopefully, the above answers provided some reassurance to existing members who are perfectly happy with the current base game and have no desire to upgrade to a premium subscription model.
In the remainder of this article, I’ll explore what additional features are coming to FitXR and how the new model will allow for a fitness experience with more scope and content than before.
Monthly Membership New Content Overview
FitXR’s most requested feature is finally coming and will be available to all existing members. This a true seven-player simultaneous multiplayer feature where you’ll be able to talk with your opponents before, during, and after workouts.
I got to sample this in a 15-minute session with members of the FitXR team and it worked really well. Visually it’s the same as the current ghost multiplayer mode, but instead of playing against real players’ previously recorded scores, you’re now competing with each other in real-time. I’ve recorded the session below from my perspective, although note we didn’t have voices enabled.
It was great to play against Ianthe and Sam, even though I comparatively sucked and had to prop up the bottom of the leaderboard! FitXR has always wanted to capture the feeling and atmosphere of a live boxercise, dance, or HIIT class. Now they can. With over 6000 members already in the official FitXR Facebook group and a further 1.6 thousand in a separate Facebook FitXR Team Workout group, I can really see this feature catching on. For many people exercise needs to have a social element for them to be able to enjoy and stick with it, so I’m expecting this to be a hugely popular addition! If you’re up for multiplayer action get yourselves signed up to both these FB groups and become part of a rapidly growing community.
We started with Box, then we got Dance, now the latest studio is incoming. HIIT is a high-intensity interval workout designed to get your heart rate up and calories burning in the shortest space of time. Whereas Box simulates a boxercise class, Sam told me the inspiration for HIIT is explosive circuit training classes like some of the workouts found in F45. This is challenging, full-body training, that will work your body in a different way to the other two studios, giving you greater workout variety.
I’ve not got to try this yet, but as you can see from the screenshots you must strike the targets on the wall in front of you. As Sam described it to me, the wall lights up and you have to touch the lights as fast as you can. They will appear from all different heights and angles so you’ll be reaching, twisting, crouching, and leaping, with the movements involving your whole body. You might want to invest in an ice towel for this!
New venues and locations are an important part of keeping a game feeling fresh and varied. the new HIIT studio will get its own special environment, a cliff-top house, overlooking the ocean.
In addition, both the cliff house and the Skypark environments will feature day and night options to suit your mood.
I’ve always enjoyed FitXR’s license-free music. Despite the lack of recognizable artists and bands, the music has always hit the mark for me in terms of getting me amped up. Even so, there’s no denying that having some ‘real’ tunes and anthems to workout to will add some extra atmosphere and immersion. To that end, FitXR has partnered with Warner Music promising that FitXR classes will feature ‘music that moves you.’ FitXR says this will include a mix of recognizable tunes from Warner’s catalog, alongside the showcasing of exciting new and emerging artists. FitXR wants you to associate their workouts not just with sweat and hard work, but also the pleasure of discovering new artists and bands that you’ll grow to love.
UI Overhaul and Home Destinations
Finally, the user interface will also see improvements. It’s going to be easier to search through the various workouts, and the program will provide additional information about each of them so you can be better directed to workouts to match your current fitness ability and goals. We’re also going to see three different home destinations for selection, from which you can navigate around the app. These will be The Loft, The Locker Room, and The Arena.
This was a long article and a lot to talk about! If you’re an existing user like myself, I hope it’s been helpful in alleviating any concerns you might have had of losing access to FitXR. Although there will be users who are adamantly opposed to subscription services, I think FitXR is working hard to provide the best possible value to its existing userbase. The reassurance of us keeping all of our pre brought content, a generous ninety-day free trial, and the welcome addition of a seven-player multiplayer mode, available to all existing members have certainly made me feel a lot better, and I now feel I can look forward to the new service with some anticipation.
I also really appreciate the five profile to one account feature too, which will enable whole families to enjoy FitXR together.
As a writer for a VR fitness-based website, I’m also admittedly biased. I want VR fitness to grow, and I see the medium of virtual reality and especially the mobile Quest platform as an exercise tool primarily, and a game’s machine second. As this is a fitness-focused website, many of you will likely feel the same. The majority of Quest owners however are gamers and so inevitably some existing users will see this as a parting of ways.
To those who are upset by the direction FitXR has decided to go, I really do understand. However, with virtual reality on the cusp of achieving mainstream adoption, its potential as a new exercise platform is huge. That we now have, in the Quest platform, a virtual reality ecosystem so thriving that it can even support subscription services feels like we are moving forward. Both VR and FitXR are growing up.
It might be goodbye to some, but for those who choose to go along on this journey, it seems like a pretty exciting time. I can’t deny I’m pretty excited to tread the path and to see where we end up…